For years, I was fascinated by the lilting brogue, the Irish accent. An alluring English, full of outlandish slang and flowing musical intonations. In fact, I have learnt there are a lively bunch of Irish English varieties scattered throughout this green island. A visit to Ireland to hear the locals and chat with them was my dream for many years.
During the recent fall I landed in Dublin airport with Liat, the woman I love, to start a journey to get to know the most cheerful island on the globe. Hearing native Irish- English daily was about to materialize.
Before departing to our voyage to the south of Ireland we didn’t miss the one of a kind Guinness St James’s Gate Brewery. We learnt exactly what goes into a pint of the “black stuff” and the story of how this famous stout went from humble beginnings to being sold all around the world. Surely a must visit place. Meeting the team members of the brewery, learning how to pour and drink was an experience. Deep inside we fantasised bumping into Bono, born and raised in Dublin. But I would just compromise with hearing the Irish accent during the tour. Surprisingly all those employees of the brewery we met that spoke fluent English were comers from Romania, Serbia, Portugal and Spain. No Irish born ones. Maybe it was just a coincidence.
Renting our car at a renowned brand center was handled unexpectedly but efficiently by employees arriving from Slovakia and Croatia. Where are the Irish?
Our journey had just begun and we were eager to discover the water source of the Guinness Brewery — the Wicklow mountains, a little way south. The ‘valley of the two lakes‘ and Glendalough village were remarkable. The 6th century ‘Monastic City’ was impressive. Its founder and first abbot was the Irish Saint Kevin. The landscape of sheep roaming around makes the vibrantly green Irish countryside amazing. The view into Lough Tay in Wicklow is one of the most breathtaking landscapes one can imagine. The lake was the setting for the fictional village historical drama “Vikings”.
We were in a hurry for the breezy cosmopolitan spot on an island in the middle of the River Lee in the south – the city of Cork. It carries a maritime history spanning over a thousand years, set in a beautiful soft coastal environment.
We made our home at the recently rebranded Leonardo Hotel Cork, part of the Leonardo Hotels brand, owned by Fattal group. That was by itself an intriguing experience. We found the hotel in a convenient location and reflecting a homey feeling. It was great to meet the boss – Manager Diana Pyzio, who arrived in Ireland in her early 20s from a town near Krakow of Poland, almost 20 years ago. Her career with hospitality developed and since Covid erapted she became the hotel manager. Diana is extremely proud of both her husband and her Irish residency. With her perfect English we enjoyed learning about this vivacious city. “Cork is a city with an artistic scene, known as the foodie capital of Ireland with many guests coming to enjoy outdoor dining and craft beers”, she says. “Cork is also known as one of the friendliest cities in the world”, she adds and reveals more about the hotel. “We are located in the heart of this beautiful city with close proximity for all it has to offer. We really pride ourselves on the friendliness of our staff”. Diana was absolutely right. The employee’s service was exceptional. We enjoyed the comfortable wide bed, the scenery of the river from the window, the Irish breakfast and the tasty Hamburgers and the local beer in the bar. The hotel also provides a comfortable private secured outdoor parking which is definitely an asset.
The visit to Cork’s English Market was first on our agenda. This is the oldest trading Covered Food Market in Europe. Farmhouse cheeses, charcuterie, fresh breads, Irish artisan food, french epicerie Artisan and specialities are popular in the market, a gateway to Irish gourmets and foodies. Unlike markets in Israel, where the merchants scream at the visitors – urging them to buy their products – in Cork the atmosphere is different. It was quiet. Definitely a hurdle to hear the desired Irish accent, although most of the merchants looked native born. “The Farmgate” on the balcony upstairs from where you can watch the market while eating the local delicacies was an experience, however the lovely waitresses were unfortunately again non-Irish.
We loved Cork and its atmosphere. Imagining to bump into Cork born renowned celebrities with the Irish accent like actors Cillian Murphy (“Oppenheimer”) and Jack Gleeson, who played Joffrey Baratheon on the TV series Game of Thrones, was obviously just a whim. Visiting a few of the lively 1,000 extraordinary traditional pubs with happy locals drinking and singing together local Irish music and melodies was an enjoyable experience. Diana, with her outgoing hospitality skills, took us to the long-established home of Irish traditional music in the city – ‘Sin é’, widely viewed as the best traditional pub in Cork. An evening to cherish.
South of Cork the vibrant beautiful sleepy coastal town of Kinsale is famous for its colorful streetscapes and rich history. Originally a medieval fishing port, this town is surely the most picturesque in the county. A must visit.
Before departing Cork I was determined to discover the mystery of the missing Irish born people I was expecting. I have learnt that the population of Ireland is now estimated to stand at 5.28 million inhabitants. Cathal Doherty, a Demography Statistician in the Central Statistics Office in Cork tries to assist me with the explanation I was looking for: “Between the years 2017 and 2023, the number of non-Irish citizens residing in Ireland has grown by more than 190,000 people – this is an increase of over one-third. Over the same time period, the number of Irish citizens has risen by just under 280,000 people, a 6% increase. The 760,000 non-Irish citizens now account for 14% of the total population”, he says. I can only assume that the increase of non-Irish working in the service industry is tremendously significant.
An hour and a half drive to the west and the charming town of Killarney is a must-see destination. But we are after nature for its national park, part of the ‘Ring of Kerry’ famous drive. Its Torc long cascade waterfall is impressive. Ladies View is a scenic hotspot where one can catch the best views of these magnificent lakes. It was Ireland at its best.
When I almost gave up on chatting with a person possessing a lilting brogue accent, a miraculous occurrence happened. Visiting the Gap of Dunloe I was determined to enjoy the scenic narrow mountain pass – one of Kerry’s most popular tourist destinations due to its scenery, lakes and waterfalls – sitting in a jaunting car. This is a light two-wheeled carriage for a single horse and an absolute thrill. There Liat and myself were guests of the driver, 56 years old Berine Casey. A fifth generation to jaunting car riders who reside in the famous picturesque Black Valley by the gap. The hour we spent together on a rainy afternoon, hearing his explanations and life story in brogue were almost equal to the beauty of the landscape. We couldn’t understand most of his heavy Irish-English accent sentences, but listening to him was music to my ears. The arduous quest for a genuine Irish in Ireland was finally accomplished.